I didn't get any writing done today and I blame writer John Reinhard Dizon.
Yesterday he sent me a copy of this novel, Tiara, in exchange for an honest...moreI didn't get any writing done today and I blame writer John Reinhard Dizon.
Yesterday he sent me a copy of this novel, Tiara, in exchange for an honest review. I started it this morning and could not put it down. That is not a figure of speech; I just finished it. Tiara is, as the title suggests, the tale of a princess (in this case, Jennifer Mac Manus, Princess of Edinburgh) but it is NOT a bedtime story. I couldn't quit reading and you won't either.
Kidnapped on the eve of the start of peace talks in her attempt to end the violence in Northern Ireland, Princess Jennifer finds herself the mistreated prize in a war between the military and her terrorist captors, between the police and the gangsters who provide her captors support, and the American CIA, and mercenaries, and assassins, and the churches on both sides of an age old struggle, and the communities torn apart by the entire breakneck carnival of chaos.
Set in 1998, Tiara features several modern knights, many knaves, a lot of ferocious fire breathing dragons, and an iron-willed princess who, nevertheless, finds herself in need of rescuing. It is not a morality play, black and white, good and evil, are often blurred by emotion, politics, and mania, but it is a modern fairy tale. And it is entirely deserving of your attention.(less)
I received a reader's copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.
Think of Victorian London and one image immediately comes to mind, a serial ki...moreI received a reader's copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.
Think of Victorian London and one image immediately comes to mind, a serial killer known to the populace as Jack the Ripper haunting fog-shrouded Whitechapel, slaughtering prostitutes with impunity. What you don't know, what you couldn't know until now, is that another killer was loose in that great city at that very same time. Enter Brian L. Porter, Ripper expert, author of A Study in Red, and writer/producer of the upcoming television series Jack the Ripper Reality and Myth, with his gripping novel based upon real events; Behind Closed Doors.
It's the story of another set of gruesome murders that took place in London in the fall of 1888, at the height of the Ripper murders; these on the city's Underground Railroad. It is the story of Detective Inspector Albert Norris, a man fighting personal demons of his own, and his Detective Sergeant Dylan Hillman, pressured to solve a series of murders of young women without the public getting a hint the murders have taken place. Under incredible pressure already, due to the Ripper killings, Norris and Hillman must keep their investigation an absolute secret. The very few witnesses they are allowed to question are sworn to secrecy under threat of imprisonment, and the livelihood of the detectives themselves hangs in the balance should word get out.
Life intruded when I started the novel so I was forced to come back to it. I refused to put it down from the mid-point on. I read it in one edge-of-my-seat sitting. I'm a sucker for a good mystery, love Victorian thrills. and am fascinated by the Ripper killings. The Underground murders, well-told in a novel that brings these ghosts from history back to life, adds a delicious spice to the murderous pursuits. I really enjoyed Behind Closed Doors and highly recommend it.(less)
I received a free copy of The Seren Trilogy in return for an honest review.
And what I found was indescribable fun. A story for wildly imaginative chil...moreI received a free copy of The Seren Trilogy in return for an honest review.
And what I found was indescribable fun. A story for wildly imaginative children wherein a little girl and her cat travel through space and time meeting one adventure after another; including but not limited to talking rabbits on a mission to save the world, angry dragons pledged to destroy it, an old dark house next door, and magic, lots and lots of magic. None of it makes very much sense but then neither does The Wizard of Oz. Author Darren Lewis offers up a crazy fantasy with a quirky sense of humor and a lot of heart.(less)
I received a free copy of Blood Curry (A collection of recipes, poems and short stories in the speculative genre) in return for an honest review.
Of co...moreI received a free copy of Blood Curry (A collection of recipes, poems and short stories in the speculative genre) in return for an honest review.
Of course speculative isn't really a genre. It is a carefully selected word giving author John Irvine carte blanche to include any tale he wanted; horror, science fiction, fantasy, splatter, soap box rant in this loose anthology. And he does; seventy-six short stories, poems, sonnets, and/or just passing thoughts to which he's attached titles. That does not count the additional twenty-two recipes (17 for various dishes, 5 for drinks) all featuring blood as an ingredient. This last, odd thematic thread is an interesting and amusing idea that, at first, adds to the queasy tone. But as there are so many works in this volume, the culinary nods quickly become annoying intrusions. By the fifth recipe, I no longer cared, and by the seventh, I was paging past with barely a glance. In a smaller collection, I might have appreciated their presence more. But that's me. If you're into blood, cooking, or exotic foods, these might be your favorite part of the book. Bon appetit.
Now to the poetry and fiction. As you see above, I have given Blood Curry 4 Stars. They are well earned, but not unqualified. Because not all of the works deserve 4 Stars. For every story or poem I liked, there was another that I found merely okay. For every story I considered a masterpiece, and there were several, there was a tale that I hated! If you'll forgive my kidnapping Longfellow's 'little girl with the little curl', when John Irvine is good he's very good indeed, but when he's bad he's horrid. The 4 Stars aren't for the horrid ones. They're for the stories in this book that horror fans must read. Among those are: Skin, Another Shadow, I'm Sorry (a brilliant piece on love and retribution), and the wonderfully fun Keeping An Ear to the Pillow. There are more, many more that are very good: Grandfather, Annabelle of Aries, Bombazine as a Culinary Statement, and Look after your Leather Belt.
But it isn't all sweetness and light. Breeders might have been a nifty little sci-fi tale had it been told about believable people. Instead it is a wasted opportunity wherein Irvine, using the southern US as a setting, spews incestuous hillbilly stereotypes with a mind-numbing rapidity. (He seems to have a hard-on for Tennessee as he goes at them in several stories. One wonders if he isn't just taking an inside poke at Tony Karnes, a Tennessee native and one of seven illustrators who contributed to the book, at our expense.) The author misses again with the story Saving Manhattan, another stereotyped mess that might have had a chance were it set in the Bronx, Queens, or Harlem. But Manhattan? Gran O'Hood and the Wolfe offered nothing but a tired swipe at supposedly gun crazy Americans. His story An Eye for an Eye is more of the same. (Honestly, nobody has fired a shot the whole time I've worked on this review.) He disappoints with the tepid rambling of Puppet on a String, with In the Beginning, and with the nonsense pieces Life, and My Alien Penis. Ode to Her Tongue probably meant something to the author but it didn't to me. Zero Gravity Love was a waste of the three seconds it took to read it.
But I admit I'm picking gnat poop out of pepper, seventy-six is a lot of stories. You can't please everybody all the time, and I seriously doubt Irvine wants to. His writing is, if anything, direct and fearless and. in the end, the totality of the work makes it great. John Irvine is a damned fine writer. Mirror, mirror is a great terror fantasy, Pink is a jaw dropping tale, and his short story Exotic Flower is absolutely, genuinely effing horrifying. More, I was amused by Her Elegant Fingers, and What You Wish For, and I laughed my hind end off with Sleeping Beauty and the Prince of Plumbers. Winter Moon was a fine horror tale with a twist. You Are What You Eat was crazy and creepy. I could go on and on. But I've said more than enough. Blood Curry is some bad, some okay, and a whole lot of great. It is liberally illustrated by an international coterie of talented artists (many writers themselves). And, overall, it deserves 4 Stars and your attention.(less)
I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.
I am not the target audience for The Cartographer. It features a teenaged hero and...moreI received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.
I am not the target audience for The Cartographer. It features a teenaged hero and reads, primarily, like a Young Adult novel. More, it is a science fiction tale and I read little science fiction. But it is an adventure - and I love adventures. Treasure Island has always been one of my favorite books. The Cartographer has a setup much like Treasure Island, a young man forced into a long journey of epic proportions (here, in space instead of on the high seas), making allies and enemies along the way, fighting battles and facing fears he never dreamed of and, in the end, meeting the climax as a much more mature fellow.
Well, everything but that last bit. Everything up to 'in the end'. You see, The Cartographer doesn't feature a climax. It introduces a galaxy of fun and interesting characters, a lot of jeopardy and explosive action, and an intriguing plot line. That's what I enjoyed about the novel. What I didn't enjoy was the young hero, Nathan Chambers, who cries too much, whines too much, and swears too much. And he's a bad influence on his shipmates because after a while the aliens are swearing like longshoremen too. But there is something about the character I want to like. I hope he matures between now and the sequel.
That's the other thing... ** SPOILER ALERT ** There will be a sequel. There must be because the author left the novel in a cliff hanger. There was no climax to this story for the young man to show any gained maturity. That's not a complaint, merely a fact. (And it's not the first time it's happened; film-goers know The Empire Strikes Back did the same thing.) So Nathan will return. I'm glad for that because the upcoming story promises to tell the part of the plot I was really looking forward to. When he does, I hope he's more mature, I hope he swears less, and I hope someone orders him to stop saying, OK.
The Cartographer is not Treasure Island. When I read Treasure Island, I want to be Jim, I want to sail the seven seas, I want to fight pirates! The Cartographer did not make me want to be Nathan or travel through space. But I did enjoy watching him do it. The book engaged me enough that I look forward to the sequel in hopes that a more mature Nathan recruits me to not only read about him but to sail with him to the stars on a great adventure, fighting villainous aliens! (less)
Two aliens walk into a bar... No, it's not the set up to a bad joke. It's the set up to a damned fine book. Soul of a Warrior isn't science-fiction, fa...moreTwo aliens walk into a bar... No, it's not the set up to a bad joke. It's the set up to a damned fine book. Soul of a Warrior isn't science-fiction, fantasy, horror, or romance, it is all of these, with lots of romance, combined. In the hands of an experienced author it would be quite a juggling act. So, what happens when those same elements are put together in one novel by a first time author? In the hands of writer Denna Holm... grand things. To describe Soul of a Warrior would be to fail to do the novel justice. What, after all, is Moby Dick but the story of a nut chasing a big fish. This is an epic romantic fantasy featuring fantastic creatures on a far away world with, as in all great epics, a very ordinary woman - someone we can all relate to - dragged into the mix against her will and better judgement. And the emotional race is on! The reader breathlessly meets love, terror, sex, adventure, fear... Hell, just buy it, and read it, and love it. Author Denna Holm is here to stay.
(The Goodreads 'Read From dates' are nonsense, incidentally. I started the novel, then life got in the way. When I was able to get back to start it over, the book was a breezy several day read. *shakes head*)(less)
I am not an abusive critic. I have read Lieberman before and enjoyed him. I also know how difficult it is to write a novel and wouldn't want to be pil...moreI am not an abusive critic. I have read Lieberman before and enjoyed him. I also know how difficult it is to write a novel and wouldn't want to be pilloried; everyone has their tastes. I respect authors. I respect their words. That said, I hated The Eighth Square; loathed it, saw no point in it, found no entertainment with it. A group of not particularly interesting and universally unlikable characters get lost in the woods while exploring the boundaries of their properties. Nothing of interest happens, until the end, when the ridiculous happens. The satanic nightmare promised on the jacket never develops. I'm sorry I wasted my time. I will make it a point to reread City of the Dead soon because Herbert Lieberman can write. But I will forget this.(less)
The Best of the Horror Society 2013 is a literary smorgasbord of horror shorts, featuring something for every, and I do mean every, taste; from the su...moreThe Best of the Horror Society 2013 is a literary smorgasbord of horror shorts, featuring something for every, and I do mean every, taste; from the subtle, the small, and the child-like on one end of the table to the epic, the grisly, and the gory on the other, with an entire buffet between. You won't go away hungry. There are nostalgia inducing horrors like T.E. Grau's "Beer and Worms" or editor Carson Buckingham's "Lemminaid" that take you back to a forgotten time and oh-so real and familiar place, settle you in, then bite you. There's the richly atmospheric creepiness of Henry Sniders' "The Clown" that drags you down the boardwalk to its conclusion. There's Rose Blackthorn's shiver-inducing tale of nature and paranoia "Black Bird". There's every kids' weird old lady next door in Kevin A. Ranson's "Tendrils Never Lie". For myself, born in northern Illinois, the father of three sons born in Monroe, Wisconsin, I knew every inch of snow-bound territory in Weldon Burge's claustrophobic and brutal "White Hell, Wisconsin," and I was right there with the terrified protagonist. Having once bought a fixer-upper to please a young wife, I was ripe for the chills and awful chuckles inspired by Christian A. Larsen's "It Has Teeth". And, having checked in to Scott M. Goriscak's "Adjoining Rooms", I may never sleep in a hotel again. I wish there was room to detail them all, but I don't want to spoil your experience. There are tales from the masters of the genre; William F. Nolan, Joe McKinney, Morte Castle, Lee Pletzers, Dan Dillard. And stories by the masters in waiting; Richard Thomas, Julianne Snow, Dave Jeffrey, Mercedes M. Yardley, Robert S. Wilson, Lisamarie Lamb, Jason V. Brock, Nicholas Grabowsky, Mark Onspaugh, Aaron Warwick Dries, Charles Colyott, L.L. Soares, Ian Rogers, Dean M. Drinkel. 28 stories of the eerie, the awful, and when you can't take it anymore, the sublime. Will you love every tale? Probably not. I've never read an anthology yet where I related to every story. But there's plenty to love and I highly recommend The Best of the Horror Society 2013 anthology.(less)
In Nov 2017 the minions of darkness, vampires and werewolves, declared war on mankind. Ten years later, that war rages. That's the situation on page 1...moreIn Nov 2017 the minions of darkness, vampires and werewolves, declared war on mankind. Ten years later, that war rages. That's the situation on page 1 of Brandon Hale's Day Soldiers. When I first got hold of it, I wanted to like Day Soldiers very badly. I hated it when I first started reading. And I wound up in love with it. Day Soldiers is a wonderful bit of original horror.
I wanted to like it because of the author, Brandon Hale. I don't know him personally. I've seen his pictures on the internet, had a short story posted by him during a month-long Halloween tribute (Thank you, Mr. Hale), and I often read his blog. That's why I wanted to read and like Day Soldiers. Brandon Hale makes me laugh. (His movie reviews in particular, which rarely have anything to do with the movie, are hilarious.) I think humor is vital to good horror.
Then I started reading Day Soldiers. I thought the first two pages were dreadful. After reading the word vampire twenty or more times, I put the book down and really had to decide if I wanted to read any more. But, as I said, Mr. Hale is an entertaining fellow and I decided he deserved a few more minutes of my time. Really, who the hell did I think I was? I returned to Day Soldiers and started over. I'm glad I did. The writing settled down, the author found his voice, and I found myself in the midst of an engaging tale of terror and not a little real drama. Yeah, I found I cared about the characters.
I loved Day Soldiers. That's why I won't tell you anything about it. If you like horror, you need to read it. It isn't the strongest novel I've ever read. The dialogue doesn't always scream with intense realism. But, like vampirism, the story of Lily Baxter and her friend Leo Rosenburg earning their place among an elite group of homeland warriors, the Day Soldiers, to fight the legions of evil for control of the world is infectious. It's gory and funny and entertaining - and once you're into it, damned exciting. It is also the first of a series and I'm certain that Mr. Hale's writing grows stronger with each installment; meaning Day Soldiers Book Two: Purging Fires and the newly released Day Soldiers Book Three: Topia are on my to-read list for this year.(less)